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The Most Improved Pitch Framers

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When Baseball Info Solutions developed its pitch-framing component Strike Zone Runs Saved, we discovered that it was one of the most consistent and important aspects of catcher defense. Catchers who are good at drawing extra strike calls because of their framing tend to stay good from year to year. For example, Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey, two of the games’ best framers, have each saved their teams runs with framing every year since 2010, the first year BIS calculated the statistic.

With examples like Lucroy and Posey, it’s tempting to assume that framing is an ability that some players are born with and others are not. However, perhaps in part because we and others have recently been able to put numbers to the skill for the first time, several players made substantial improvements to their framing from 2014 to 2015. Here are the biggest improvers among catchers who caught 500 or more innings in both seasons.

Increase in Extra Strikes per 1,000 Pitches, 2014 to 2015
Player 2014 2015 Improvement
Chris Iannetta -7 10 17
Tyler Flowers 7 17 10
Kurt Suzuki -16 -8 8
Yadier Molina -7 1 8
Welington Castillo -9 -5 4
Yasmani Grandal 7 11 4
Jason Castro 4 8 4

Chris Iannetta was the inspiration of this post, and he easily leads the list. Prior to the 2015 season, he gave an interview where he explained that after discovering he was a poor framer thanks to newer framing metrics, he worked on improving it in the offseason. That hard work clearly paid off. After costing the Angels 38 runs due to poor framing from 2010 to 2014, the third worst total among catchers, Iannetta saved the team seven framing runs in 2015, the eighth best total.

Tyler Flowers was already an excellent framer, but in 2015, he became the best in baseball among full-timers. His 17 extra strikes per 1,000 pitches were five more than the No. 2 framer, Miguel Montero. Yadier Molina was a positive framing contributor every season between 2010 and 2013, so his bad season in 2014 was clearly an outlier and likely impacted by his hand injury. Kurt Suzuki, Welington Castillo, Yasmani Grandal, and Jason Castro round out the list of framing improvers.

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